It doesn’t take Tommy Zovich long to transition from wrestling into lacrosse.
The High School North junior has just about the perfect crossover combination of sports. In the winter, he competed at 170 pounds for the Knights’ wrestling team. He transitioned smoothly then into the spring where he takes faceoffs for the WW-P North boys lacrosse team.
“They both play pretty hand in hand with each other,” Zovich said. “That doesn’t hurt.”
Faceoffs are almost like wrestling matches. At the start of each quarter and after any goal, Zovich lines up one-on-one to essentially wrestle for the ball with his stick.
“For me, it’s the sense of body, shifting weight, knowing where to put yourself, when to push and when to pull back,” Zovich said. “Wrestling helps with building strength and knowing where to put that strength.”
His wrestling background helped earn him a spot in lacrosse games as a freshman. With some more experienced members of the team out, he had the opportunity to take some faceoffs.
“I decided to try it,” Zovich recalled. “It turned out I was pretty good at it. Then sophomore year, I stepped up again. I think I was right under 50 percent. Being put in that role, I feel like you need to do it if the team needs it.”
Zovich hopes to be back to take faceoffs again this spring if and when the season begins. He felt the benefits of lacrosse in his wrestling as well.
“I think it plays almost the same way with the sense of body,” Zovich said. “It almost helps the same way with faceoffs to wrestling. When I was in wrestling season, I like to do a lot of throws and sweeps, and coming into faceoffs and wrestling you need to know if you move this way, your momentum shifts this way. I think it helps me there.”
Zovich comes off his finest wrestling season individually and team-wise. After a dozen wins as a sophomore for a Knights wrestling team that won two matches, Zovich went 24-8 and reached the Region 5 tournament for the first time while WW-P North jumped to 7-12 in dual meets.
“It’s pretty great,” Zovich said. “Having two wins those first couple years, and bumping up to seven this year was great. We had a lot more kids. It felt like we had a full roster and had people to put in every weight. You get to watch kids in every weight and cheer people on.”
The Knights felt better about their potential when they saw an influx of young wrestlers.
Evan Pettus, who is a lacrosse assistant coach as well, was named the new wrestling coach late in the fall, and was greeted by enthusiasm and dedication from his growing squad.
“This year, we were able to get seven team wins and a couple in county too, which meant a lot for the guys,” Pettus said. “We were successful overall because I had 30 guys in the room. It was more a thing of filling almost all the weight classes and guys stepping up. Overall, it was an extremely successful team season. And then a couple guys did really well individually as well.”
Timothy Glynn and Matt Moore were higher weight wrestlers that enjoyed successful senior seasons to lead the team, and Zovich and freshman 106/113-pounder Justin Musmanno will be the wrestlers returning off the best years with both having 20-plus wins. With just four seniors graduating, and strong numbers expected to come in, the program feels it’s on the rise.
“There’s a semi-large freshman class,” Pettus said. “There’s a lot over at Community Middle School doing it so I have the same amount coming next year. And then there’s a seventh grade class that’s big and they’ll be here in two years.”
Zovich was thrilled with the jump he was able to make from last year. Most of his improvements came from the work he put in in the offseason – which helped for both of his sports.
“I did work out over the summer so I got physically stronger and physically bigger,” Zovich said. “Being in the room and being able to work out more and practice my moves and take different looks at different people now that we have more people helped. Also what helped was being able to talk to a lot of different people and see how they wrestle and get a better feel for the sport as a whole.”
With higher participation numbers, the energy was greater in the practice room, and there was more intensity with more Knight wrestlers competing for spots in the starting lineup.
“It kept them alert and on their toes,” Pettus said. “They welcomed the competition and they fought for their spot every week. It kept the competition up in the room. It was good competition, healthy competition. They would support whoever won the spot. It was good competition that kept them going.”
Zovich proved best at 170. He came in well ahead of where he was a year ago.
“He’s in the room and in practice and in matches, he keeps to himself but he works hard,” Pettus said. “During match days, he doesn’t say a word to anybody before his matches. He’s a two-sport guy. I work the weight room in the fall and he’s in there a lot in the summer and fall.
“He was able to get a lot stronger in the offseason. That helped him a lot. He’s not the tallest guy in the 170-weight class, but his strength makes up for it. He doesn’t take anything lightly. Even if it’s a fun competition, he goes out to win it. It was a lot of hard offseason work and he stayed focused.”
At the Mercer County Tournament, the Knights were eighth led by Moore who was second at heavyweight and Glynn was third at 195 while Zovich took third at 170.
“Tim Glynn is a two-year captain,” Pettus said. “He helped me this entire season to get the guys ready and get the guys in shape and helped me with new drills. He was our leader off the mat. Matt Moore had a pretty successful year last year and this year too. Both of those guys are heavier so we’re unfortunately losing two heavyweights next year. Hopefully we’ll get guys to replace them.”
The District 19 tournament gave North’s experienced wrestlers another chance to shine. Glynn placed third to advance to regions and Zovich took second in the district, which was where he was seeded.
“First round, I had to make sure I got past,” Zovich said. “Second round, I had a kid from the beginning of the season and it was a close match. Then I got to the finals, and that was one of the calmer matches I had. I knew I’d gotten into regions. I wasn’t thinking about districts at the beginning of the season, so to get to that point was great for me.”
By virtue of his second-place district finish, he was able to advance to his first region tournament, where he was seeded 10th. He lost in the first round to Montgomery’s Alex Ipeker to conclude a season that saw him gain experience and confidence.
“It was nerve-wracking going to regions,” Zovich said. “I knew had to try my hardest and do my best on the mat. I put it all out there. I wrestled my match through and what happened, happened.
“I was satisfied with what I did,” he added. “I couldn’t have even dreamed of doing what I did. I think I kept surprising myself throughout this season.”
Tommy Zovich doesn’t want to look too far ahead, but he is hopeful that he can improve again next year on his wrestling success. First, he is hoping for a chance to play lacrosse this spring where he sees a chance to find complementary success with that team.
“I think we have big things coming for us,” Zovich said. “We’ve been working out our lines and working out our plays. Just looking out over the team, it’s not necessarily all upperclassmen, we have other people stepping up in roles.
“We have new things we’re working on. I think it’s a different look from last year and the practices are starting to look a little different too. It should be good.”